The Marine Protection Atlas

brings together the best available information on marine protection around the world, so that the marine conservation community can work together to protect at least 30% of the world's oceans by 2030.
2.7%
of global ocean area
is in implemented and fully / highly protected zones
3.7%
is in implemented but less protected zones
< 1%
is in designated but unimplemented zones
1.4%
is in proposed / committed zones
Marine protected areas are essential for safeguarding biodiversity and the health of marine ecosystems. They provide sanctuary for species to mature, reproduce, and help restore healthy populations within and beyond their borders. Marine protected areas also build resilience against threats such as climate change and pollution by maintaining vital natural processes, storing carbon, and buffering coastlines as well as ensuring sustainable food supplies for coastal communities.

Around the world, national and international organizations are working together to protect marine areas within their borders and beyond national jurisdictions. Leading experts agree that 30% of each marine biogeographic region must be conserved in effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative, well-connected systems of marine protected areas by 2030 to safeguard biodiversity and the benefits humans derive from nature.

Current progress toward global marine protection:

Percent of global ocean by protection status:
implemented
10%
20%
30%
unimplemented
MPA zones
area (km2)
% of global ocean
Implemented:
14,092
22,846,219
6.4%
Fully / Highly Protected
1,014
9,634,054
2.7%
Less Protected / Unknown
13,078
13,212,165
3.7%
Unimplemented:
2,403
2,187,650
< 1%
Designated & Unimplemented
2,403
2,187,650
< 1%
Total Designated:
16,495
25,033,869
7%
Proposed / Committed:
232
5,022,168
1.4%
Proposed / Committed
232
5,022,168
1.4%

Our approach:

Marine Protection Atlas collects and shares the best available information on marine protected areas (MPAs) to track global progress and to promote effective networks of protected areas across the ocean. Our goal is to clarify and visualize the level of protection and implementation of the world's MPAs, highlighting the importance of fully and highly protected areas that have the components necessary to achieve positive conservation outcomes. Marine Protection Atlas serves as a bridge between designating authorities and the marine conservation and science community to ensure that marine protected areas are fully implemented, actively managed and effective in achieving desired conservation benefits.

Compile

We compile the latest available global data from the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) and other data providers into a standardized database. We also map the boundaries of newly defined protected areas before they are available in the WDPA.

Enrich

We enrich the database with additional information including the location of no-take reserves and other management zones within marine protected areas.

Read more about our methods.

Evaluate

We work closely with partners to evaluate the protection level of marine protected areas according to a scientifically rigorous approach.

Read more about the evaluation process.

MPAs within national waters.

Many countries establish national targets or create marine protected areas as part of their larger commitment to protect biological diversity. Who are the current leaders in marine protection?

5.7%
of national marine areas
are in implemented and fully / highly protected zones
8.7%
are in implemented but less protected zones
1.6%
are in designated but unimplemented zones
< 1%
are in proposed / committed zones
52
countries and territories have protected at least 10% of their marine areas

National waters, those areas within the limits of declared Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) in which countries have jurisdiction and the ability to create marine protected areas, account for 39% of global ocean area and include many hotspots of human activity and industry. Recognizing existing and potential future threats to the ocean and the importance of safeguarding biodiversity, many nations have agreed to international commitments to create marine protected areas. Additionally, many countries have established their own national targets for marine protected areas, ranging in coverage from 10% to 30% of their ocean estate.

Explore all countries

The Marine Protection Atlas includes:
  • 215 marine countries and territories
  • 187 countries with marine protection

In 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), ratified by 196 states (notably excluding the USA), adopted the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, which includes Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Aichi Target 11 called for 10% of coastal and marine areas to be conserved by 2020 through effectively managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes. While we have reached only 7% globally, leading scientific experts assert that we need a more rigorous approach to conservation, including a goal of 30% protection by 2030. After extensive advocacy and campaigning, the UN CBD released a draft proposal for a post-2020 framework, which includes a target to protect at least 30% of the planet - land and sea - by 2030, which is anticipated to be adopted by governments at the 15th Conference of the Parties in October 2020 in Kunming, China.

Top 10 Countries

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Pitcairnpart of United Kingdom
99% protected
832,898 km2 protected by 1 MPA zones
0% of designated area in United Kingdom
842,291 km2 in exclusive economic zone13% of United Kingdom total marine area
Marine protection level:
implemented
50%
100%
99% fully / highly protected (1 MPA zones, 832,898 km2)
637,897 km2 protected by 7 MPA zones650,804 km2 in exclusive economic zone
Marine protection level:
implemented
50%
100%
98% fully / highly protected (6 MPA zones, 637,897 km2)
< 1% less protected / unknown (1 MPA zones, 0.000 km2)
98% protected
600,664 km2 protected by 42 MPA zones614,808 km2 in exclusive economic zone
Marine protection level:
implemented
50%
100%
78% fully / highly protected (18 MPA zones, 477,415 km2)
20% less protected / unknown (24 MPA zones, 123,249 km2)
1,266,050 km2 protected by 12 MPA zones
0% of designated area in United States
1,961,162 km2 in exclusive economic zone16% of United States total marine area
Marine protection level:
implemented
35%
70%
65% fully / highly protected (11 MPA zones, 1,266,050 km2)
< 1% less protected / unknown (1 MPA zones, 0.000 km2)
41% protected
129,770 km2 protected by 5 MPA zones
0% of designated area in New Zealand
318,140 km2 in exclusive economic zone4.7% of New Zealand total marine area
Marine protection level:
implemented
25%
50%
41% fully / highly protected (2 MPA zones, 129,770 km2)
< 1% less protected / unknown (3 MPA zones, 0.111 km2)
4,630,973 km2 protected by 1,876 MPA zones6,530,024 km2 in exclusive economic zone
Marine protection level:
implemented
40%
80%
34% fully / highly protected (48 MPA zones, 2,229,829 km2)
26% less protected / unknown (1,634 MPA zones, 1,698,382 km2)
11% designated & unimplemented (194 MPA zones, 702,762 km2)
< 1% proposed / committed (52 MPA zones, 4,748 km2)
29% protected
637,909 km2 protected by 16 MPA zones2,203,542 km2 in exclusive economic zone
Marine protection level:
implemented
10%
20%
30%
29% fully / highly protected (6 MPA zones, 637,897 km2)
< 1% less protected / unknown (9 MPA zones, 10.4 km2)
< 1% designated & unimplemented (1 MPA zones, 0.832 km2)
1,578,849 km2 protected by 10 MPA zones
0% of designated area in United Kingdom
1,653,388 km2 in exclusive economic zone25% of United Kingdom total marine area
Marine protection level:
implemented
50%
100%
unimplemented
27% fully / highly protected (1 MPA zones, 443,585 km2)
27% less protected / unknown (8 MPA zones, 447,325 km2)
42% designated & unimplemented (1 MPA zones, 687,939 km2)
1,237,283 km2 protected by 3 MPA zones1,237,783 km2 in exclusive economic zone
Marine protection level:
implemented
50%
100%
25% fully / highly protected (1 MPA zones, 307,343 km2)
75% less protected / unknown (2 MPA zones, 929,940 km2)
3,178,994 km2 protected by 922 MPA zones12,205,918 km2 in exclusive economic zone
Marine protection level:
implemented
10%
20%
30%
23% fully / highly protected (152 MPA zones, 2,815,671 km2)
3% less protected / unknown (749 MPA zones, 362,958 km2)
< 1% designated & unimplemented (21 MPA zones, 365 km2)
< 1% proposed / committed (4 MPA zones, 29,167 km2)

A growing number of large MPAs cover the oceans of many countries and high seas areas protecting diverse pelagic ecosystems, offshore seamounts, and ocean trenches.

93%
of global marine protected area
is in very large MPA zones(≥ 100,000 km2)
30%
is in large MPA zones(100 - 100,000 km2)

The 25 largest MPA zones account for more than 70% of the total marine protected area in the world.

In contrast, most MPAs are very small; roughly 66% of them are smaller than 10 km2.

MPA Zones
area (km2)
% of global ocean
Very Large
(≥ 100,000 km2)
60
23,316,926
6.5%
Large
(100 - 100,000 km2)
2,700
7,459,686
2.1%
Small
(10 - 100 km2)
2,885
107,209
< 1%
Very Small
(< 10 km2)
10,850
13,911
< 1%

Both small and large MPAs can export adult or larvae marine species and support sustainable fisheries and other extractive human activities (by supplementing populations in surrounding areas), but MPAs are less effective for conserving biodiversity if the organisms they export suffer significant fishing mortality. MPAs that can reduce mortality and protect critical life history phases where they occur are much more effective than those that do not.

Research suggests large MPAs are much more cost-effective to implement and manage compared to smaller MPAs (McCrea-Stroub et al 2010), and in general larger areas provide greater protection from activities that occur outside the MPA. However, it is important to note that small and well managed MPAs can still achieve important conservation benefits.

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Weddell Sea - General Protection ZoneMarine Protected Area within the High Seas
Proposed / Committed
Marine area: 1,865,802 km2
Ross Sea Region [General Protection Zone (i) Ross Sea shelf/slope and Balleny Islands]Marine Protected Area (CCAMLR) within the High Seas
Fully / Highly Protected
Marine area: 1,507,249 km2
Natural Park of the Coral SeaNatural Park (Parc Naturel)
Overlaps with France (national waters), New Caledonia, Vanuatu
Less Protected / Unknown
Marine area: 1,289,330 km2
Pacific Remote IslandsMarine National Monument within United States Minor Outlying Islands
Fully / Highly Protected
Marine area: 1,258,550 km2
... and 16,491 other MPAs ...

This application was created by the Marine Conservation Institute in partnership with Astute Spruce, LLC and EcoQuants LLC.

It is made possible through the generous support from:

Contact Uslast updated: 2021-01-13© 2020 Marine Conservation Institute